GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) — Little feet made their way back into Achilles Elementary School in Gloucester last month.

After a year of virtual learning, the 2nd graders in Laura Longest’s class were over the moon to be back. 

“Much happier because we all get to be here 4 days,” said 2nd grader Elin Scearce.

Longest has been a teacher for 12 years. In that time, she says the pandemic proved to be one of her biggest challenges. 

“Even though there were a lot of obstacles this year we wanted to make it a positive experience for our students we wanted to make it fun and engaging,” Longest says.

Immediately, she created a Facebook page for her students and families so everyone could keep connected. 

Then, she got to work on fun and educational Zoom lessons.

From Zoom pajama parties to jokes of the day, she had a lot of tricks up her sleeve. 

“She took some dice every few weeks and rolled them and whoever if she rolled like a 2, the 2nd person next to her, got to tell them how their week was,” said 2nd grader CJ Zanoni.

Students say each day had a new theme.

“She had these fun days, Monday was Share Day … Thursday was Thankful Thursday and Friday was Fun Friday,” Scearce said.

For the last few weeks of 2nd grade, they gave it their all in math, wiggled it out on learning breaks, and clearly, had a great time doing it. 

“Happy kids make the best learners, and if they aren’t excited about coming to school, and if they aren’t confident in themselves and confident about the way I feel about them, then it’s going to be harder for them to learn,” Longest said.

With 3rd grade creeping around the corner for these students, I think it’s safe to say, this year will be one for the books. 

Not just because of the pandemic, but because of a teacher who went above and beyond.

“I think I really want to go back to 2nd grade,” Zanoni said.

Longest says they made the best of a difficult situation, and she’s flattered her fellow staff nominated her for this piece. 

She says she’ll never stop finding new ways to be the best teacher she can be.